Jan. 18, 2014
Evansville, Ind. - Junior Christian Thomas scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the second half but Evansville's D.J. Balentine gave the home team the lead with 1:21 left and the Purple Aces held on for a 53-48 win over the Ramblers this afternoon at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. Loyola slides to 7-11 (2-4 MVC) while Evansville improves to 9-10 (2-4).
"I thought Christian and Joe Crisman played as hard as anyone out there today,"said head coach Porter Moser. "But I thought that they were more physical than us at the other spots on the court and we have three teams coming up (Indiana State, Northern Iowa and Wichita State) that are just as, if not more, physical than Evansville."
Defense was the story of the first half with neither team able to get much going on the offensive end. Loyola held Evansville scoreless for a 6:15 stretch and Milton Doyle and Devon Turk combined for all 10 points in a 10-0 run that gave the Ramblers a 19-10 advantage with just under four minutes left in the half. However, Evansville closed the half strong and pulled even at 23 on a Balentine basket at the buzzer. Loyola shot just 36% in the period but held Evansville to 32% shooting and forced seven turnovers.
The hosts stormed out of the gates in the second half, using a 12-2 blitz to take a 35-25 lead at the 16:44 mark. A Thomas basket helped Loyola stem the tide and the St. Louis native capped a 17-4 run with a three-ball from the top of the key to give the Ramblers the lead back (42-39) at the 8:36 mark. The teams battled back and forth the rest of the way with neither team leading by more than one possession. Thomas knocked down his third triple of the day to make it 48-all with 1:55 left but Balentine scored on the ensuing trip to put Evansville back in front. A shot clock violation gave the ball back to the Aces, who extended back to a three-point lead on a Blake Simmons free throw. Thomas got a good look at a straight-on three-pointer but it rimmed out and Doyle's follow up was blocked by Duane Gibson. Balentine hit two free throws to account for the final score.
Thomas was outstanding in the second half, scoring 14 of his 19 points. He also tied for team-high honors with eight rebounds. He was joined in double figures by Doyle, who added 10 points and six boards.
Loyola returns home for a pair of games next week starting with a Wednesday night battle against Indiana State. Tip from Gentile Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.